Governance and human rights expert Undule Mwakasungula has described the call for nationwide demonstrations on presidential immunity as questionable, fearing it could be a ploy to bring down a democratically elected government.
Led by Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa, the CSO leaders and concerned citizens are pushing for the removal of presidential immunity, stressing that this is key to succeed in the fight against corruption in Malawi.
Namiwa said by removing the immunity, Chakwera would have also made a bold statement that he was not entangled in any corruption scandals that have rocked the country in the two years of his leadership.
Namiwa claimed that President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera’s “changing of tunes and dragging his feet on removing presidential immunity strengthens fears that first citizens entangle themselves in corrupt activities; hence, it’s safer remaining immune.”
He vowed that CSOs would not relent in piling pressure on the President to either scrap off the presidential immunity or come out in the open and accept that he is compromised in the fight against corruption and, therefore, not fit to continue serving in the high office.
But Mwakasungula questioned the agility and excitement among CSO leaders and Concerned Citizens to push for the removal of the constitutional provision.
The revered human rights activist feared that there could be some politics at play on the issue.
“The issue of removal of presidential immunity must not be politicised as it can create a constitutional crisis and chaos. We need to seriously reflect and be sober with the issue without being manipulated by/for political interests in the name of fighting corruption,” said Mwakasungula in an interview early this week.
He stated that in many African countries, a sitting president is immune from prosecution in the domestic courts, not only for breaking the country’s laws, but for breaking international law.
Mwakasungula further stated that the sitting president needs to be protected by the constitution from any wrongdoing while in office for the sake of national sanity so that the President is not distracted from government operations and derailing of national development.
“The immunity is meant to preserve the dignity of the office of the President. And any attempt to prosecute a sitting president might lead to dis- integration of the state unity, and may create anarchy and chaos. It is important therefore that Malawians are engaged and free to debate looking at both the good and bad side of allowing the President to answer his/her wrongs while in office. This cannot only be left to a few Civil society or concerned citizens to decide,” he said.
He cautioned CSOs and Concerned Citizens against championing a cause intended to undemocratically bring change in regime through pushing for presidential immunity.
“We must know that any undemocratic regime change will be unacceptable. Malawi has so many problems to tackle and we need unity of purpose hence very important to understand our priorities as a country without politics or hidden agenda,” emphasized Mwakasungula.